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Laptop Computers -anyone use them in their trucks?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by JCurtis, Dec 17, 2000.

  1. JCurtis

    JCurtis Banned
    Messages: 862

    Just curious....

    Does anyone here use a laptop computer in their trucks to track time in and time out on sites? Or for anyother use related to tracking weather or tracking accounts done for that matter.

    Maybe thats just a bit too high tech for this point in time.
  2. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    I like the idea.
    I'll have to check to see if my drivers and subs can type at all.

    Only real problem I see is how to keep the computer on the seat or console when they slam them frozen piles. Seems like the laptop would become a projectile into the fire wall at times. Will they take that type of abuse ???
  3. JCurtis

    JCurtis Banned
    Messages: 862

    Police cars have a bracket installed that the laptop locks to. Its just an idea? was curious if anyone was already using them.

    I mean with wireless technology and everything? It might be someting to consider. Drivers could possibly log in and out of a account site, beam it to the main office where it can be logged and the invoices could be printed at the EOS
    (End Of Storm) A lot fewer slips of paper bouncing around the cab.
  4. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    We're installing global tracking satellite locator dodads in all our trucks. We plug in the laptop at the end of the day and get a print out as to where the truck has been, how fast it was traveling, how long at each stop, etc.

    Costs about $400 per truck (plus the initial expense of the software).

    Does that count ??

    This company that we are buying them from indicates that they will have an 'add on' in a year to tell us when the plow is up and when it is down too. Don't know if that will be worth anything yet, but who knows.
  5. JCurtis

    JCurtis Banned
    Messages: 862


    Emailme the information on that equipment. I would to take a look at it.


    [Edited by JCurtis on 12-17-2000 at 07:50 PM]
  6. mowerconsultant

    mowerconsultant Junior Member
    Messages: 11

    Here is my setup
    I dont plow
    I use this for work
    I am a commercial mower manufacturer rep
    I am on the road at least 3 or 4 days out of the work week
    I have a gps system and mapping system among other business programs.
    printer is in the ext cab of the truck
    and I have a link cable that uses my star tac phone as a modem, so I can get these forums...lol and e-mail on the road.
    and here is the mount kit, it is the same ones that police and fire departments use.
    by the way i do have a mount kit for sale.
    the kit does not include the laptop mount part, and is set up for drill mount to your transmision hump
    if you desire they do make a no holes drilled mount also, it uses the seat mount bolts (this is what i used)
    here is the company that makes the mount kits. they also make all the radio mounts and any accessory mounts you will need.
  7. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    I carry a laptop with me. However it is in a secure location, and I must set it up before I can use it. I used to try leaving it on the seat, but I got tired of trying to stop it from moving with my hand before I hit a snow pile.

  8. SlimJim Z71

    SlimJim Z71 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,031


    I'm interested in that GPS setup too. If you wouldn't mind passing on the info?

  9. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    They have a web site. I'm not in the office right now, but when I get in tomorrow morning I dig up the info and email it, or post it here (if I can remember - you might want to email me to remind me, as if you email on this forum it goes to the office and not the house).
  10. iowastorm

    iowastorm Senior Member
    Messages: 358

    I use a laptop in my storm chasing vehicle to get radar, wx outlooks, sfc maps, etc. It's very slow and extremely expensive. Had a $4K bill one month. Maybe in the future it'll be more cost effective.
  11. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

  12. jaclawn

    jaclawn Member
    Messages: 92

    Since every minute counts during a snowstorm, I would think that you would have to have a software program setup so that you could quiclky click on an account name, and the time completed could be recorded. You don't want to have to take the time to type any info in.

    I made up a route sheet, with each account listed, and a series of boxes to record times for plowing, salting, shoveling walks, salting walks, and a Misc. box. All I need to do is jot down the time I am finished.
  13. DaveK

    DaveK Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    This is an older thread but, I wasn't a plowsite member that long ago.

    Mounting the laptop would be essential. :)

    jaclawn mentioned easy data entry as a concern.
    Most good "computer shops" can set you up with a barcode scanner. Not like the grocery store. It looks like a fat pen that you just slide across a barcode.

    Your route sheets could have a barcode for each account. Then you just swipe the pen across it when you arrive and again when you are done. And you could take it one step further by having other optional codes, like deicer applied, number of inches on the ground, etc.

    Come to think of it, Blizzard Buster software may even be able to use this type of entry.

    Of course those with multiple trucks would need a method to merge the data from all trucks with the main computer.
  14. captjack

    captjack Member
    Messages: 53

    I would use a palm with the "DOC'S TO GO" program. With this you can use an excel spread sheet, hot sync it to your palm, put in start, stop times(notes), while plowing,salting then hot sync it back to your laptop/pc. Import that doc into what ever billing software you are using and send out the bills!
    Im in sales and use my laptop on the road all the time but im not comfy letting it sit out (mounted or otherwise) in my f350 while im driving. I have found that the palm works very well once you get it set up right. Plus when it hits the dash during a sudden stop, I will only be out a few hundred $ rather then a few thousand $
    The way it looks now in MD, I may never get to try this!
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2001
  15. DaveK

    DaveK Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    That's another great way. Besides palm or other PDAs, there are data collection devices that are used solely for this purpose. Then the data is imported to your computer. Ease of use, functionality, cost, availability of customer service, etc, should all be considered. It will do no good if your drivers won't/don't use it.

    I only mentioned an easier method of entering data using a laptop since most people are familiar with laptops already.
  16. carlriv2

    carlriv2 Senior Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 126

    I keep all of my data in my palm pilot (actually kyocera smartphone) Pilot and phone merged into one it is very handy to have and would be lost without it. at this point i cannot download the info to the software.
    This summer I also bought a gps by garmin. street pilot III I think. I got tired of guys driving around lost. Now they have no excuse to be lost once they learn how to use the gps (very easy) It tells the driver step by step directions (voice) and will drop the truck somewhere within 30 ft of the location you set. Paid for itself in no time.
  17. stslawncare

    stslawncare Senior Member
    Messages: 142

    very good idea on the laptops, the counties paramedics have laptops mounted in each chevy suburban, they are logged onto a internet webpage that keeps track of whos working on what unit, whether they are at the hospital or on a call or enroute, the times and everything. a local ambulance company has gps, it starts beeping at the base when a unit is going over a certain mph, and it keeps track of everything like mentioned above. a webpage could be benificial, have one with a form that has a default for each account
  18. DaveO

    DaveO PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Ma.
    Messages: 299


    It's just a matter of time before almost every service vehicle has some sort of data aquisition. Many "over the road" trucks have been using some sort for years. I know for a fact that many ECM's store various data like max speed/rpm, avg milage/speed etc. Honda even has designed in "break-in" parameters on some bikes, where they will not attain top power/speed until after a certain milage interval.

    For those of us with larger routes, a laptop/PDA can be a great asset for tracking customers/service/billing. Especially efficient is the platform that DaveK mentioned about the bar code scanners. This allows any driver to quickly/accurately record the service(preffered use with a dual battery/isolator setup, right DaveK?). We use that system to track production/test/repair of all our product. All stored in a database for access/analysis at a later date if needed.

    I am more interested in using my laptop for online weather radar. This will allow me to better determine when to service certain customers. It is important to me to have an idea of how much longer it will snow. In the past I have called home and had my wife bring up the radar map on the PC to inform me of things like the rain/snow line, which direction the storm is heading, and how large is the storm itself. With this info, I have been able to somewhat accurately estimate remaining snowfall of most storms while out plowing. And we all know how accurate the weathermen are sometimes.

    My primary use of my laptop is for the "bikes" we service/race. I can download the EFI "maps" and igintion tables on many models. Then by looking at various data, I can alter the fuel/ignition maps for better performance. It takes longer for my laptop to boot, than it does for me to change a fuel map(<30seconds). Gone are the days of changing jets, getting C14 race fuel all over the trailer.

    Technology is a wonderful thing. Hopefully snow removal equipment will start to catch up. This is one field that appears to be resistive to change quickly, with justifiable concerns.
  19. Mike Nelson

    Mike Nelson Senior Member
    Messages: 637

    "Technology is a wonderful thing. Hopefully snow removal equipment will start to catch up. "

    Some of these DOT trucks have more electronic controls and computors in them than one could ever imagine.I think it is PENNDOT that has a truck with three or four different deicers on board.The truck has the capability to choose which one to use according to road conditions.I am sure most of youv'e seen the new controls they have at the shows today.If they could just get the seat to vibrate we would be all set. :D

    Happy Holidays to all
  20. paul

    paul PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 151

    DaveO, Right now the limiting factors are slow down load speeds of mobile phones. We use GPS systems in our landscape trucks, downloading map info into them for crews going to new jobs. our snow removal is limited to just a couple of areas and crews can keep in touch with the office by radio(Nextel) they also have weather info built in to Nextel units now too.

    Useage of laptops tho to record ground temps before salt apps and the total amount of salt applied to surfaces can only help you in the long run. Other useages but more for leaders would be tracking of trucks, lists of spare equipment or parts on hand, tracking snow amounts on the ground and crew progress thru the event.